Support the Cuban People vs. People to People Travel to Cuba

Support the Cuban People vs. People to People Travel to Cuba

ViaHero · Updated June 5, 2019

As you've probably heard, The White House has enacted new Cuba travel restrictions for Americans. One of these restrictions has officially ended the People to People travel category. But what does that mean for you? What is a "category of legal travel"? Can you still travel to Cuba as an American? Has Support for the Cuban People been affected? What if you've already booked a trip under the People to People category? 

We'll answer all those questions and more below; if you have any questions after reading, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Want to make the most out of your trip? Tap into our network of local travel planners—Heroes—who build unique, locally-curated trip plans, designed just for you. Get started.

Every American traveler to Cuba is required to choose an approved category of travel. This is a US government requirement. These categories are self-reporting (read: an honor system), and the category you choose depends on how you're going to spend your time in Cuba. Before the June 2019 restrictions, there were 12 categories. Now, there are 11.

Here’s the full list of categories:

  1. Family Visits
  2. Official Business for the US Government, Foreign Government, and Certain Intergovernmental Organizations
  3. Journalism
  4. Professional Research
  5. Religious Activities
  6. Public Performances
  7. Support for the Cuban People
  8. Educational Activities and People to People Travel
  9. Humanitarian Projects
  10. Activities of Private Foundations for Research or Educational Institutes
  11. Exportation, Importation or Transmission of Information or Informational Materials
  12. Certain Export Transactions

As you can see, People to People is no longer an option. However: this does NOT mean you can't travel to Cuba. In fact, it is still 100% legal for Americans to travel to Cuba under the Support for the Cuban People category.

man riding horse in cuba

Why? What's the difference between People to People and Support for the Cuban People?

  • People to People was meant to foster educational dialogue. It was primarily used by guided tour companies and cruise lines. And again, as of June 5, 2019, you can no longer plan trips under the People to People category.
  • Support for the Cuban People is meant to enable travelers to support the Cuban populace. It is used by independent travelers to Cuba. You can go on your own as long as you follow the guidelines for the category. Support for the Cuban People has NOT been affected by the June 2019 policy changes.

What if I already planned my trip under People to People? Can I still go?

Yes! If you planned your trip to Cuba under the People to People category before June 5, 2019, you are exempted from the new regulations and your plans will not be affected. See the current US government OFAC FAQ for more info.

So I can still travel to Cuba legally under Support for the Cuban People? Even after June 5, 2019?

Yes, absolutely! Your trip will fit into the Support for the Cuban People category if you:

  • Support independent activities that could strengthen civil society in Cuba.
  • Avoid all GAESA-owned (military-owned) businesses. Here is a complete list of organizations that you must avoid. You cannot spend money or interact with any of them.
  • Engage in "Support for the Cuban People" activities consistent with a “full-time schedule.” Much like when you’re working, you have to follow the rules during your full-time schedule, but you’re more free to choose your activities outside of that full-time obligation. Support for the Cuban People activities include:   
    • Meeting with local artists, musicians, tobacco manufacturers, farmers, and others who own their own businesses.
    • Shopping in independent markets.
    • Exploring independently run museums.
    • Taking classes on subjects like dancing, traditional music, and Spanish language.
    • Talking with musicians at a live music venue.
    • Attending art shows and learning about different Cuban artists.
    • Discussing Cuban society with locals like your casa particular host or people you meet while out and about.

local man playing instrument in cuba

You'll just need some documentation to make sure your trip follows the rules.

Just make sure you keep your receipts for five years after your trip. Bring an envelope with you to collect them all as you go and then put it away with your important documents when you get home.

An itinerary for your trip is helpful, but not required. If you have an itinerary it will be much easier to make sure you’ve filled a full-time schedule with appropriate activities. And even more importantly, if you’re ever questioned about your trip, you’ll be able to hand over a copy of your itinerary to help things go smoothly.

A ViaHero itinerary will cover your whole trip and show you which activities on it qualify as Support for the Cuban People. Here’s an example itinerary.

Some example activities from OFAC include:

  • Staying at a casa particular and having breakfast with your hosts each morning to learn about their lives.
  • Volunteering with independent groups to do something like work in a school for underserved Cuban children.

Get help planning your trip under Support for the Cuban People.

If you'd like any help planning your trip, a local expert in Cuba can plan out as much or as little of your trip as you'd like, all while helping to ensure that your itinerary complies with the Support for the Cuban People category. Check out the pricing page for more on what is included.

Whenever you'd like to get started, enter a few of your travel interests and you'll be matched with the best local expert to plan your trip.

Is there anything else I need to do before I go to Cuba?

Buy a Cuban Tourist Card. This is a requirement of the Cuban government. People from most countries need one, not just American citizens. If you're traveling directly from the US, your card will be pink. If not, your card will be green. The simplest way to get your Cuban Tourist Card is to purchase it online in advance, but airlines that fly to Cuba also offer Tourist Cards for sale. Call your airline for more information, or check out this detailed guide to purchasing a Tourist Card.

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Have more questions about traveling to Cuba? Here is a list of our local Cuban travel experts who can help you or you can message us any questions you have. And before your trip, make sure to check out:

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